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October 21, 2013

Student artists give from the heart with annual donation to Children’s Hospital

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Five-year-old Detroit Country Day student Jonah Sawicki, of Clarkston, sits proudly by artwork he created. His piece, hanging at left, is now displayed inside Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

BEVERLY HILLS — The best artists know that the most valuable creations are made with more than paint and canvas — you’ve got to add some heart.

On Oct. 15, students from Detroit Country Day School gathered with family, friends, administrators and more than 100 other guests at Children’s Hospital of Michigan to donate original pieces of artwork to the hospital’s collection. The donation is part of the school’s annual Art from the Heart program, which is now in its 11th year.

“We currently have close to 400 pieces of art hanging at the hospital at this time. Some pieces are collaborative pieces with several children, but on average, we donate two pieces of art each year, from preschool all the way up to seniors. It’s about 30-40 pieces each year — two pieces per grade,” said Sue Murphy, director of external affairs with DCDS.

Murphy explained that Art from the Heart is the culmination of the school’s yearlong art instruction throughout each campus. Each spring, during the school’s annual Celebrate the Arts event, a representative from Children’s Hospital of Michigan comes to check out the students’ prized pieces of artwork on display for the community to see. Art from every grade is selected, and the artists are asked if they’d be willing to donate their work to the program.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had one say, ‘I’d like to keep mine.’ They’re all very honored. Our students are very tuned in to giving,” said Murphy.

This year’s donation program was co-chaired by Ami Antonucci, as a member of DCDS’s Friends of the Arts. She worked closely with the hospital to arrange the donation, then made sure all of the artwork was appropriately framed and attributed to its creator with nameplates. It was a lot of work, but was all worth it last week, when the students gathered at the hospital to see their art — 29 pieces in all — handed over to be displayed.

“(The dedication ceremony) is a chance for students to see their work in the hospital,” said Antonucci. “It’s not in its permanent spot yet. It will be in the cafeteria for a year for everyone to enjoy. Then, it will be moved out to treatment rooms, hallways, wherever they need it.”

The Art from the Heart program is a favorite for Grace Serra, art advisor at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. It’s her job to make sure that, in a community of modest resources, the Detroit-based hospital is kept vibrant and aesthetically comfortable for the families and children being cared for. DCDS makes that job a little easier, she said.

“We started our Healing Arts program in 2004, with the intention of having art in the hospital not just for décor, but studies have shown that patients that have exposure to art heal faster, use less pain medication, and their duration of stay is shorter,” said Serra. “We want kids to walk in and feel like it’s a place for them. Artwork, especially by other children, is the best fit.”

While the hospital accepts artwork donations from several organizations, no other group makes an annual gift like DCDS, Serra said.

To see some student artwork for yourself, head to the Detroit Country Day School open house 1-3 p.m. Oct. 27, held at each of the four campuses.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.